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Blue Angel Crash Blamed on GLOC

Blue angel crash.jpgYou might remember we reported on this back in October after a conversation with a few of the Blues in San Francisco during a Fleet Week reception. They admitted at that time that the mishap report had found "pilot error" as the main causal factor behind the April crash that took the life of Lcdr. Kevin Davis, Blue Angel No. 5.Now AP puts a finer point on the findings in an article running at Military.com:

An investigator reviewing flight data found that as the turn subjected Davis to six times the force of gravity, a temporary decrease in blood flow to his brain likely caused him to experience tunnel vision and become disoriented, the report found.

However, Davis worked to regain control of the plane, "and in the last few seconds he may have been aware of his low altitude and was attempting to save the aircraft," said the report by Marine Lt. Col. Javier J. Ball.

"Kevin had performed these maneuvers in training and in the fleet. He had done them in similar situations and he had a history of performing them well without any problems," Hanzlik said

The Pensacola-based Blue Angels fly without the G-suits that most fighter pilots wear to avoid blacking out during such maneuvers. The suits inflate and deflate air bladders around the lower body to force blood to the brain and heart.

However, the air bladders can cause a pilot to bump the control stick, so the Blue Angels instead learn to manage the forces by tensing their abdominal muscles.

The crash at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort was the Blue Angels' first since 1999 and the 26th fatality in the team's 60-year history.

Because of the crash, the Navy has increased its exercise requirements for Blue Angels pilots with an additional focus on abdominal muscles. The team has also stepped up its requirements for centrifuge training tailored for Blue Angels pilots.

Eight people on the ground were injured and some homes were damaged when the plane crashed in a residential area about 35 miles northwest of Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Among other things, this mishap demonstrates how GLOC really is a "cobra in the basket" for tactical aircrews. Even without G-suits, Blue Angels are as G-conditioned as any aviators in the fleet due to the fact they pull 'em nearly every day all year long.

-- Ward

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